ATLANTIC, Va. (AP) - A company contracted by NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station has launched test rocket from the East Coast.
The unmanned Antares rocket blasted off Sunday from Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
The launch by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. was designed to test whether a practice payload could reach orbit and safely separate from the rocket. If it's successful, Orbital plans a test run to the space station this summer and hopes to make the first of eight deliveries with its Cygnus cargo ship in the fall.
Orbital, near Washinton, D.C., is one of two companies contracted to supply the space station by NASA, which ended its shuttle program in 2011. California-based SpaceX completed its third supply run to the station last month.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell today congratulated Orbital Sciences Corporation for the successful first launch of its new Antares medium-class launch vehicle from the recently completed Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island. Pad 0A was developed in partnership with Orbital to support eight resupply missions to the International Space Station, expected to begin later this year.
Speaking about today's successful launch, Governor McDonnell said "I wholeheartedly congratulate Orbital Sciences Corporation on the first launch of their new Antares launch vehicle. I would also like to thank our team at the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VSFA) for their years of hard work and efforts in making MARS one of the most attractive places in the country for the commercial aerospace industry to do business. The Orbital/VCSFA relationship is emblematic of how government and the private sector can successfully partner together to grow Virginia businesses and create jobs. The completion of Pad 0A last year and today's successful launch are tremendous steps forward for both Orbital and the Commonwealth of Virginia. I look forward to our continued partnership with Orbital as they work to meet their contract with NASA and the VCSFA works to further develop and grow the commercial aerospace industry in Virginia."
The purpose of the A-ONE mission was to demonstrate the operational Antares launch system, from roll-out of the rocket from its integration facility, through emplacement on the pad and fueling, to launch and delivery of a simulated payload to orbit. Orbital is next scheduled to conduct a Demonstration Mission of cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS). The Demonstration Mission is the final operational milestone under the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) agreement. Following the successful completion of the COTS research and development program, Orbital is slated to deliver up to 20,000 kg of supplies to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. The Demonstration Mission and CRS flights will continue to launch from MARS Pad 0A, which is ideally suited for ISS missions.
"Virginia's partnership with Orbital Sciences Corporation presents a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the Commonwealth's commercial aerospace capabilities," said Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. "The successful launch of the Antares rocket is a critical step in not only meeting Orbital's contract with NASA, but showing the rest of the aerospace community that Virginia is open for business."
VCSFA Executive Director Dale Nash said, "We are very proud to be part of the NASA/Orbital Antares team, and I'm pleased with the exceptional performance of the MARS personnel and facilities on the A-One launch. I'd like to thank Orbital's leadership, Secretary Connaughton, and Governor McDonnell for their continued support in developing this project and growing the commercial aerospace industry in Virginia."
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority was created by the General Assembly in 1995 to promote the growth and development of the commercial aerospace industry in Virginia. In 2011, the VCSFA was restructured as a truly independent authority and provided the resources necessary to become one of the leading launch facilities in the United States. The VCSFA manages the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport on Wallops Island, one of only four facilities licensed to launch rockets into orbit in the United States.
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